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Full text of "A history of Persia"

PERSIA BEFORE THE REVOLUTION  499
lenders to a considerable extent, whereas in Persia this is
rarely the case. Moreover, thousands of the Khorasan
peasants go to work in Russian Turkestan during the
winter and thus supplement their incomes. Persians are
not of a saving disposition like the majority of Indians,
who save to excess but ruin themselves on weddings.
Finally, the Persian peasant appears to be finer in physique
and more intelligent than the Panjab cultivator, and in
spite of the oppression that prevails is better off from
many points of view.
The Tribesmen.óNo picture of Persia would be
complete without reference to its tribesmen, who may
number one-fourth of the entire population. The ethno-
graphical medley is great, with Kurds, Turkoman,
Timuris (of Arab origin), Hazaras, Baluchis, Turks, and
Arabs in Khorasan alone; but, although these are of
different origin and in many cases speak different
languages, their customs are similar. They usually live
in black tents woven from goat's hair cloth, and gradually
graze their flocks towards the mountains in the spring,
returning to the plains in the autumn. They practically
never marry outside the tribe and are consequently pure
bred, hence the immutability of their separate customs.
Nominally Moslems, these free sons of the dasht, as the
untilled land is termed in Persia, obey nobody except
their chief, who in cases of importance summons a council
composed of the elders of the tribe.
The authority of the chief depends on his personality ;
and the more the inner working of a tribe is studied the
greater is the number of the jealousies, rivalries, and
feuds that are disclosed. At present the Bakhtiari tribe
is of great importance, owing to the part it has played in
the recent revolution ; but in no tribe are there greater
divisions, one section having even fought for the ex-Shah
against the majority of its fellow-tribesmen.
The greater freedom of the women, the virility of all
classes, and the splendid health enjoyed by the nomads
are worth much ; and the English traveller usually feels
drawn towards them and realizes that their virtues far
outweigh their faults.